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Five summer foods to avoid

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AKA The Food Safety Level 2 Certificate and why you need to check they have one…

So it’s summertime; the living is easy and the cotton is not the only thing that’s high… that poached salmon sitting in the warm marquee at the wedding, the undercooked BBQ burger of doom, the chicken leg sitting in the sun on the works picnic. None of these are my favourite things.

Warmer temperatures cause bacteria to multiply at a frenetic rate – so, even if that chicken leg was perfectly chilled on the way over (it won’t have been, believe me), an hour in the sun means that it’s going to be gustatory dynamite by the time you pick it up and nibble.

It only takes as few as 10 E.Coli bacteria to make you ill and a bacterial colony can double its size in just 20 minutes in warmer weather. No wonder summer is the season we most associate with food poisoning.

The salmon, the burger and the chicken probably come as no surprise to you as possible threats but there are others which probably will. So let’s look at 5 less obvious candidates.

Beware of the buffet…


Melons are ripe for listeria outbreaks. Two cases in the US caused 140 cases of poisoning and 30 people died. Unlike many other bacteria, listeria is happy to grow at refrigerator-level temperatures. And do bear in mind that not many people keep their melons in the fridge. The listeria bacteria sit on the rind and when you cut into it you push them into the flesh. The trick is to make sure you wash and scrub that rind before you cut.


It’s a pasta salad. What could possibly go wrong? Well quite a lot actually. Staphylococcal aureus is a type of bacteria found in human hair and skin. It is thus easily transferable to dishes which need prepping but no cooking. So, having made your pasta salad, what happens next? It’s placed on the buffet table whilst the speeches go on and on; or it’s plonked on that picnic table in the sun. The effect of Staphylococcal aureus can be spectacular. It can make you sick within 6 hours. In some cases within 30 minutes. That’ll be an event to remember…


2011. Germany. 3,950 people were taken ill and 53 people died from an outbreak of E.Coli. Many of the sufferers developed haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) where bacteria attack the kidneys and nervous system, giving them fits and forcing them on to dialysis. Despite extensive testing of tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce, no-one could find the culprit. Eventually, and to some surprise, they realised the source of the poisoning was bean sprouts.

The problem with bean sprouts is that the optimum conditions for their growth are the optimum conditions for bacterial growth too. There’s no cooking involved so, if you don’t wash them thoroughly…


A staple of the buffet, a triumph of the picnic, a joy to behold when devilled and presented as a canape. And a highly effective transmitter of salmonella.

The eggs will be cooked of course but the stuffing may well not be. In some cases these little balls of joy may sit around for hours at room temperature (or worse). If any of the ingredients are raw or undercooked then the salmonella bacteria will grow to dangerous levels.

So, the rule of contact is this: If the eggs aren’t served on ice, don’t touch them.


A quick word about seconds. Don’t.

You tucked in a few hours ago but the buffet table is still there, groaning under the weight of all that lovely food. You’ve just begun to feel a bit peckish. Shame to let all that lovely grub go to waste…sidle up, grab a plate, dig in…

Not a wise move. From the moment the caterers placed the food on the table the bacteria started multiplying, and now, four hours later, the bacterial presence on some of those foods is in the millions and doubling every 20 to 30 minutes.

Of course a responsible caterer would know this and would have removed the food long before you had the opportunity to leap in and poison yourself. But it does happen…


This is also the time of year when all those events, the weddings, the parties, the family get-togethers require swathes of seasonal food handling staff. Responsible caterers ensure their temporary staff have the requisite Food Safety level 2 qualification – mandatory for those handling food. If you’re planning an event and engaging a caterer then make sure this is the case. Ensure their food handlers all have an appropriate Food Safety Certificate.

Your guests will thank you.

Enjoy the summer, enjoy the events and the parties and look after yourself.


The Food Standards Agency states that: “Food business operators are required by law, to ensure that food handlers receive appropriate supervision and instruction/training in food hygiene in line with their work activity and should enable them to handle food safely.”  In other words anyone working with food either full or part-time, permanently of temporarily will need a Food Safety Certificate. Level 2.

The Shout Out Safety Food Safety Level 2 training course covers the key areas required to meet the training needs of those working with food. It’s suitable for anyone who works in the preparation of food including those who work part-time, on a temporary basis or seasonally.

This a CPD accredited course is in 4 sections which cover the following topics:

  • What we mean by Food Safety
  • How bacteria multiplies and creates a threat
  • The health implications of poor hygiene
  • Cross-contamination and how to avoid it 
  • Personal Responsibilities in the workplace
  • Cleaning, Cooking and Chilling

“Shout out Safety courses are great value for money, simple to access and a convenient way to ensure our staff understand their responsibilities in ensuring their own health and safety at work. Fun and informative, I would recommend the courses to all businesses.”

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